Lent Project Day 5: Vision

Woman holding glasses out in front of her. The glasses in the foreground have the focus, and she is blurred in the background.

Let us start today’s reflection with a story from Ruby Gettinger: A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looks on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this? ” The husband replies, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”


I mean, I get it, it’s easy to be snarky and think that everyone else is the problem. It’s easy to have our vision clouded by the dirty windows of fatigue, stress, worry, commitments, and a thousand other little things. To wit: J. C. Penny, at a sprightly 95 years old: “My eyesight may be getting weaker, but my vision is increasing” Boy-Howdy, I can relate to that.

Last Monday, after the fam had dinner and scattered to our separate areas of the house (such as you can do, in a not very big house, during COVID lockdown). There was hockey to watch – that was the game where the Leafs frittered away a 4 goal lead to lose 6:5 to Ottawa – but whenever Kelly Rhudey starts talking, I want to… nay, I neeeeeeed to change the channel. So, what does one do when avoiding Kelly Rhudey? Spin the channel. I got very excited that The 5th Element was on. Except it wasn’t The 5th Element. It was the 5th Estate. WAAAAY different multipass.

Last night, guess what? Same excitement about The 5th Element. Same disappointment about The Fifth Estate. How did I manage to bamboozle myself *twice*on the same mis-read? Henry David Thoreau had it figured out: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see“, which translates roughly to “Mondays are hard, yo.”

But seriously, this little 5th Element debacle got me thinking about how easy it is to not see because I’m looking too hard. It’s a common enough phenomenon that the adage “can’t see the forest for the trees” is pervasive. There are always the duck/rabbit and old woman/young lady optical illusions that challenge what you are seeing (and the fluffy psychoanalysis about what it means when you see one or the other first). More literally, when Connor needed glasses several years ago, we encouraged him to get prescription sunglasses in addition to his regular prescription. He waffled about this, he liked his current sunglasses, and he thought it would be OK to go from wearing glasses, to not wearing them. Because his (then) current state of vision was his normal, he didn’t grasp how much better it would be with the aid of his new glasses, and that he would notice the poorer vision once he took them off. Same when I got progressives: Eventually I figured out what distance from my eyeballs constitutes near or far, but those first few days were a wild ride.

This Lent, may I recognize areas of my life where the focus isn’t what I think it is. May I have a good bead on the sweet spot between what I look at, and what I see.

Extra Credit:

8 Mind-Bending Optical Illusions (And What They Reveal About How Our Brains Work)

I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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